The Alabama sports journalism community lost one of its legends when Bill Lumpkin died on Monday afternoon. He was 92.
Lumpkin served as sports editor for the Birmingham Post-Herald for 35 years, and was both an icon and industry fixture for most of his life.
Lumpkin was one of the founding members of the Alabama Sports Writers Association, and and a key contributor to the Football Writers Association of America as well.
He won the Herby Kirby Award for the state’s top sports story in 1980, 1981 and 1991, and was inducted into the Alabama Sports Writers Hall of Fame in 1993, becoming just the eighth person to receive the honor.
Lumpkin was president of the organization as well (1976-78), and also served as the FWAA president in 1993.
In 1997, he won that organization's highest honor, the Bert McGrane Award, which symbolic of the association's Hall of Fame.
When the Football Writers Association of America celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2015, Lumpkin was including in a special series called "Pillars of the FWAA." Here's some of what Gene Duffey wrote:
Bill Lumpkin learned early in his career that working for a newspaper would not make him rich. He started working for the Birmingham Post at age 15 for $16.50 a week, including overtime. And then, while a student at Alabama and stringing for the Post, he was asked to cover the opening of a rubber plant in Tuscaloosa.
It cost Lumpkin 20 cents to ride the bus to the rubber plant and back, plus 5 cents to buy the newspaper the next day. The Post paid him 5 cents an inch. After he turned in a 15-inch story on the rubber plant, the paper ran only two. He lost money on the deal.
Lumpkin’s mother, Clara, worked at the Post, first as a switchboard operator and later in the business office. “You’re not going to sit on your butt all summer and play softball,” Clara told her son in the spring of 1944. “Get down to the paper. They’re looking for an office boy.”
Bill began as a copy boy. His duties included calling the weather bureau and writing two paragraphs for the front page. “I couldn’t put a sentence together,” he said. Later he started writing a radio column called “Timely Tips for Nightly Dial Twisters,” which amounted to pasting up the releases that the radio stations mailed to the paper. He also filled paste pots, went out for coffee, ran copy to the composing room and did other “go-fer” jobs.
Oddly, Lumpkin also had a paper route, delivering the competition, the Birmingham News. “I don’t know if they knew,” he said of his bosses at the Post. “They probably didn’t care.”
After graduating from Alabama in 1950, he served in the Korean War until 1953, and then got back in to journalism.
Lumpkin passed away following a short battle with cancer.
For more information and reaction, check out "A man with the human touch" by Ben Thomas for AL.com